How To Make Raw Milk Kefir
We’ve given comprehensive tutorial on how to make milk kefir, but what about making kefir from RAW milk? The process of making kefir is the same, no matter what type of milk you use. However, raw milk is a bit more tricky because there is the added risk of pathogens in unpasteurized milk. However, the flavor of raw milk is superior to pasteurized milk and makes for a better tasting kefir.
About Raw Milk
According to a study conducted by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) which was published in the February edition of the CDC’S Journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases”; consuming raw milk is dangerous and unsafe for human consumption, this study pinpointed raw milk as the root of all dairy disease outbreaks. While they are technically accurate because raw milk (unpasteurized milk) is indeed responsible for more illnesses than pasteurized milk when you look at the numbers, it is also believed that the concerns about the risks of drinking raw (unpasteurized) cow’s milk has been blown way out of proportion. Although there are risks of becoming ill from drinking raw milk, we need to ask,why drink it in the first place? What are the health benefits and do they out-way the risks of being infected by bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli just to name a few.
Raw Milk vs Pasteurized Milk
Many consumers of raw (unpasteurized) milk believe that raw milk has a much higher nutritional value than pasteurized milk. This may be correct since cows are natural herbivores and they are healthier if they were given grass alone instead of the grains that is given to them when in confinement. Research suggested that milk from cows that are strictly given grass alone are more likely to have higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins, conjugated linoleic and other essential fatty acids and nutrients in their milk.
Research has also shown that pasteurization reduces the natural quality of milk products. According to the FDA, pasteurization destroys a substantial portion of vitamin C in milk and it also significantly impairs the bioactivity of vitamin B6 (beta-lactoglobulin) which is a heat sensitive protein in milk that increases intestinal absorption of vitamin A. Pasteurization reduces the quality of milk products by a marked decrease in manganese, copper and iron after the heat treatment.While pasteurized milk does retain some level of nutrition, raw milk is still superior in its vitamin and mineral content.
Benefits of Raw Milk
Raw milk (unpasteurized) kefir is a very potent probiotic drink that contains over 40 strains of good bacteria. Almost every milk product including kefir that we buy at the stores have been pasteurized, what this means is that the nutrients in the natural product have been altered and others completely destroyed. As mentioned before, during pasteurization most of the good bacteria and enzymes are killed and the product loses some (but certainly not all) of its nutritional synergy. Making kefir from RAW milk provides additional benefits to your kefir that pasturized milk kefir won’t have, such as the active enzymes in the raw milk and some of the bacteria found in raw milk that dies during pasteurization.
The Many Health Benefits of Kefir
Milk kefir is loaded with an abundance of probiotics which have been proven to contain exceptional health benefits. There are certain probiotics that are considered to have antibacterial properties and protects against infections, these include Lactobacillus kefiri which is unique to kefir. Studies show that probiotics can inhibit the growth of various harmful bacteria such as salmonella, helicobacter pylori and E.coli. Kefiran which is also found in kefir also has antibacterial properties.
Milk kefir can improve osteoporosis (porous bones) which is a bone disease that deteriorates bone tissues, it is common among women and dramatically raises the risk of cancers. Providing your body with an adequate calcium intake is one of the most effective ways of improving bone health and also helps to slow the progression of osteoporosis.
Fermented (probiotics dairy food) dairy products are believed to inhibit tumor growth by reducing the formation of carcinogenic compounds as well as stimulating the immune system, this protective role has been demonstrated in several test tube studies.
Another research found that kefir extract reduced the number of human breast cancer cells by 56% compared with only 14% yogurt extract, however further studies are still to be conducted on humans. Probiotics in raw milk kefir can also restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut, this is the reason they are so effective in the treatment of diarrhea. Research has also proven kefir’s effectiveness in treating all sorts of digestive ailments, that includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcers caused by helicobacter pylori (bad bacteria) and others.
According to research conducted kefir has been shown to suppress inflammatory responses related to allergy and asthma, although studies are yet to be done on humans.
What’s Inside Raw Milk Kefir (nutritional benefits)
Raw milk kefir contains a wide variety of health benefits, including it into your daily diet may just be the best health decision you would ever make. It is one of the most nutritious and beneficial foods in the world and has an abundance of vitamins, minerals, probiotics and also provides a broad spectrum of healing properties. Raw milk kefir is a fermented (probiotic) milk product made with enzyme rich milk kefir grains. It is slightly carbonated due to the fermentation process of the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that makes up the kefir grains which are used to culture raw milk kefir. These milk kefir grains are made up of a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars that feed the living microbes(good bacteria).
The milk kefir grains used in the making of raw milk kefir are alive because they are living microorganisms (beneficial bacteria). The powdered kefir culture has 9-10 beneficial bacteria inputted, as in comparison with the real milk kefir grains which have a robust complement of 40-50 friendly health-beneficial bacteria. Milk kefir promotes health maintenance, healing and repair and also contains high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, folates,vitamin K2 and biotin. Biotin is a member of the Vitamin B family that helps the body absorb other B vitamins. The proteins in raw milk kefir are partially digested and easily absorbed and used by the body. Raw milk kefir is also a great source of minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus which helps the body utilize carbohydrates, fats and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.
The fermentation process of raw milk kefir provides a way for lactose intolerant persons to enjoy the awesome goodness of probiotic drinks by providing lactase which is an essential enzyme needed for the complete digestion of milk. Lactase breaks down lactose which is the sugar that gives milk its sweetness, and in some cases it can prevent cramps and diarrhea in lactose intolerant people. This allows lactose intolerant persons to be able to consume milk products since milk is a major source of calcium which is needed for strong bones and also to help to prevent osteoporosis. Lactase splits the lactose sugar to produce the sugars glucose and galactose.
Vitamin K which is present in raw milk kefir plays a key role in calcium metabolism, it moves the calcium to areas where it is needed like the bones and teeth and prevents it from entering areas it should not be such as the tissues and arteries.
Drinking raw milk kefir is very beneficial to our health because of its very valuable nutritious content of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin K2. These nutrients provide the necessary and essential minerals needed for growth. The vitamin K2 is needed for its ability to dispatch those minerals to the bone effectively. Raw milk kefir also contains soluble vitamins A and D, these vitamins support brain health and in turn the nervous system.They also support bone density and help to naturally balance hormones.
Vitamin K2 also plays a role in protecting the heart and brain, building strong bones, plus it plays a role in cancer protection. Vitamin D works along with vitamin K2, if there is a deficiency of vitamin K2 then the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity will occur ,which includes inadequate calcification that can lead to the hardening of the arteries. A proper balance must be maintained if you are taking calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K2 and magnesium.
Fat and Calorie Content
Raw milk kefir is moderately calorie dense, having 154 calories to 1 serving of 8 ounces, which is 8% of our daily suggested calorie intake of 2,000. Raw kefir is also rich in fat, one 8 oz. serving has 8 g of fat, only 2% of raw kefir fats are saturated fats. Consuming too much saturated fats can be harmful as it may increase cholesterol levels which increases your risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.The American Heart Association limits the daily intake to less than 16 g each day to limit your risk.
The amount of carbohydrates in raw milk kefir works out to about 4 grams to one 8 oz serving. A study, published in the February 2006 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine showed that while high carbohydrate diets do not promote weight gain there are indications that low-carbohydrates diets can help you to lose weight more quickly than higher carbohydrates diets.
Raw milk kefir is an excellent source of proteins which promotes the construction and repair of our body’s cells and tissues making it essential for proper health. The institute of medicine recommends 8 grams of protein for every kilogram of your body weight.
How to Make Raw Milk Kefir
Raw milk kefir can be made in two different ways. You can use the powdered kefir culture or the milk kefir grains. There are no rules when using the powdered kefir culture, it is the simplest method and all you have to do is just add the powdered culture to a cup of milk, stir it until all the culture has completely dissolved and that’s it.
However, making your own kefir from kefir grains is by far a superior method, cheaper financially (you can reuse the kefir grains…forever), and makes for a more nuanced flavor (though it’s easier to get off-tasting kefir if you mess things up). Note that you can read our how to make milk kefir article for the general kefir making process — this tutorial is specifically targeting making kefir from RAW milk.
We recommend the kefir grain method of making kefir.
We give you two tutorials here: making raw milk kefir with powdered kefir culture and making it with kefir grains. The first method is by far the simplest while the second method is a bit more complicated, but produces a better, richer kefir. You can reuse the grains but you can’t keep on re-using your powdered kefir culture and must buy new cultures to make more kefir.
Important Points to Know When Making Raw Milk Kefir vs Pasteurized Milk
Making kefir from raw milk is identical to making kefir from pasteurized milk with a couple things to note.
- Use freshest milk you can for raw milk kefir. Raw milk comes with bacteria in it, while pasteurized milk does not. Raw milk that’s a few days old will have especially high bacteria counts in it. To avoid health risks, it’s best to use as fresh raw milk as you can. The bacteria content of raw milk may also affect weak kefir grains, especially if you try to activate dehydrated grains in it. Additionally, the older the raw milk is, the more likely you are to run into problems with unwanted pathogens. Fresh raw milk will reduce this risk.
- Do not activate dehydrated kefir grains in pure raw milk — you’ll need to gradually introduce raw milk to the grains. This is because the bacteria in the raw milk may cause problems for weakened kefir grains.
- When making kefir from raw milk, you may want to shake or stir the kefir as the fat distribution of the raw milk tends to flat to the top. This may give an uneven tasting (but not necessary) to the fermented kefir. You can prevent this by shaking or stirring the fermenting kefir to mix up the fat distribution of the raw milk more equally.
- If making kefir from powdered milk, nothing extra needs to be done
How To Make Raw Milk Kefir With Powdered Kefir Culture
The ingredients for this type of kefir drink are basic:-
- 1 quart of raw milk, the freshest milk possible
- 1 packet of kefir cultured powder
- 1 plastic, wooden or stainless steel spoon
- 1 glass jar or container
- A cheesecloth, paper towel, coffee filter, or kitchen towel
- 1 rubber-band or kitchen twine
- 1 lid cover
Since you are making kefir from powder, you don’t need any special considerations for making kefir — the process is the same as with unpasteurized milk.
- Pour the raw milk in a glass jar
- Add in the cultured kefir powder and stir it until it is completely dissolved
- Cover the jar/bottle with your cheesecloth/paper towel/coffee filter or kitchen towel and secure it with a rubber-band or kitchen twine.
- Let it sit in a warm room with temperatures of 70-75 oF
- Allow the mixture to ferment for 12-36 hours depending on how sour and how thick you want it to get. The more it ferments the stronger the probiotic (friendly beneficial bacteria) content would be.
- Once it is fermented to your desire you can now lightly cover it with a lid and store it in your fridge. The kefir will continue to ferment inside the fridge just at a much slower rate.
- Once you have made your first batch you can now secure 1 cup of raw milk kefir in a glass jar (this is the cup you would use for re-culturing) and add fresh milk and repeat the fermentation process as instructed above.
Making raw milk kefir with milk kefir grains
There are a few special conditions that apply to the making of raw milk kefir using milk kefir grains, one of those is that there must be an integration with pasteurized milk. When you receive your first batch of kefir grains they are most likely dehydrated (if you bought them online) but before you can use them you first need to re-hydrate them into 1 cup of pasteurized milk for at least 5-7 days; this gives the grains ample time to activate.
You can use the raw milk to activate your kefir grains, however it is best to avoid using raw milk when activating the kefir grains, all due to the fact that raw milk contains a host of bacteria and when combined with the bacteria from kefir grains it is feared that there would be too much competition and this would lead to an imbalance and cause the kefir to fall short of the goal.
How to activate kefir grains in raw milk
Typically you should do the following over FOUR kefir brewing cycles if you are trying to reactivate dehydrated kefir grains in raw milk:
- first cycle, use 30 percent raw milk, 70 percent pasteurized milk
- second cycle use 50 percent raw milk, 50 percent pasteurized milk
- third cycle, use 80 percent raw milk, 20 percent pasteurized milk
- fourth cycle, use 100 percent raw milk
In total, this process will take you about a week to a week and a half before you fully make kefir from 100 percent raw milk, if your brew kefir every couple days.
Also note that raw milk tends to have the milk fat move to the TOP of the container where as pasteurized milk does (such as homogenized pasteurized milk will have the fat evenly distributed. Full fat milk (pasteurized) will distribute the same way as raw milk (fat moving to the top).
This may lead to inconsistent fermentation results as much of the ‘nutrients’ the kefir grains feed on will be the milk fat near the top. If the kefir grains are near the bottom of the container, this may cause a problem with an uneven fermentation in the jar, with the bottom part more fermented than the top part. To counter this, SHAKE the jar around several times a day to move the fat near the bottom.
Equipment for Making Milk Kefir from Grains
To make raw milk kefir you need to gather all your utensils making sure they are clean and sterilized, you would need ;
- 2 glass jars or containers for kefir making
- 1 strainer (plastic, wooden, bamboo or stainless steel)
- 1 spoon (plastic, bamboo or wooden)
- A cheesecloth, kitchen towel, paper towel or coffee filter
- A rubber-band or kitchen twine
- Lid covers for bottles or jars
Make sure you check out our best equipment for making kefir for more details.
Now that you have collected your tools you need to secure your ingredients.
You will need : Kefir grains, 1 quart of raw milk and pasteurized milk.
Method for Making Raw Milk Kefir with Grains
- 2-4 tablespoon of milk kefir grains. It comes dehydrated so you need to rehydrate it in a cup of pasteurized milk for at least 5-7 days ( you need to change the milk everyday and when you begin to get the fermented scent from the batches then your grains are ready to start brewing).
- After the kefir grains have been rehydrated, place them in glass jar/bottle/container.
- Pour 1 quart of raw (unpasteurized) milk in the jar leaving 1-2 inches of free space under the rim.
- Give it a slight stir and cover the jar/bottle with your cheesecloth/paper towel/coffee filter or kitchen towel and place the rubber-band or kitchen twine to secure cloth.
- Set it in a warm room with temperatures between 70-75 oF
- Allow it to ferment for 12-48 hours or longer (adding 12 hours more and so on ) if your desired taste and thickness has not been reached. Note that raw milk has all the milk fat in the milk and as such the fat will tend to stay around near the top of the fermentation vessel. For a more even distribution of fermentation, shake the jar a couple times a day to move the fat around more evenly so the grains can eat it.
- Strain your mixture into another jar/bottle/container and rinse the previous jar. Place your kefir grains in and pour in 1 quart of milk and repeat fermentation process.
- You must now cover the jar tightly and store it in the fridge. Remember kefir will continue to ferment when in the fridge just at a slower pace.
- Optionally, you can choose to second ferment the raw milk kefir after.
The Final Word
Why drink kefir? Because it’s an easy way to introduce powerful probiotics into your diet. Kefir is also a a wonderful tasting dairy product in it’s own right and can be used as a substitute for milk. It’s great for smoothies, shakes, or just for a healthy drinkable snack.
Raw milk kefir is superior to regular kefir because you get all the benefits of RAW milk and kefir, though there is an increased risk of pathogens due to the raw milk (the fermentation process can reduce some, but not all of the risk of this). Raw milk kefir also tastes a lot better (richer, creamier, and sweeter) than pasteurized milk kefir.
However, it’s important that you get your hands on FRESH raw milk — the fresher, the better. And you want to make sure you source your raw milk from a trusted source. Also note that just because you get raw milk, doesn’t mean the source cow is better than something you buy at the supermarket. For the best quality milk you want:
- free-roaming cows
- organic milk
- antibiotic & growth hormone free milk
Read our best milk for kefir article for a complete guide on getting the best milk.
We strongly feel kefir is one of the best sources for getting probiotics into your diet and raw mik kefir is superior in every way to kefir made from pasteurized milk. If you haven’t tried making it, then make it your next project for something delicious.